TOK History Arts Ethics Religion.docx - What is History...

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What is History? - Evidence - We can know the past only to the extent that we have evidence it, it would be more accurate to say that history is not so much the study of the past as of the present traces of the past - There’s either too much or too little evidence - Significance - History is only concerned with only the significant events in the past. - Once we start talking about significant events, we run into the problem of determining what’s actually significant. - Explaining the past - Although a historian must determine what happened, this is just a prologue to understanding why it happened. Why Study History - We can justify history based on the grounds that it: - Gives us a sense of identity - Is a defense against propaganda - Enriches our understanding of human nature - History gives us a sense of identity - If as a community you don’t know where you came from, it will be impossible for you to make any sense of the present or what you should do in the future. - You can only know a country if you know about its history - History is a defense against propaganda - It is easy for national pride to dictate a one-sided interpretation of the past which highlights a country’s achievements and overlooks its mistakes. - At its worst, history can be exploited by a corrupt regime to legitimise its rule, justify territorial expansion, and whitewash past crimes. - History enriches our understanding of human nature - Shows us what human beings have thought and done in a wide variety of circumstances - Reminds us that human nature cannot be fully explained in terms of neat and tidy model. - Self-realising expectations: beliefs which if held help to bring about their
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own fulfillment. How can the past be known? - Elton’s argument: the past is objective, but says nothing about our knowledge of the past. Such knowledge is problematic because we can know the past only by reconstructing it on the basis of evidence that exists in the present. - Primary sources - Primary source: a document, recording or physical object produced at the time under study - A second-hand account, such as a history textbook, or a historical event - Fallible eye-witnesses - If multiple people are witnessing a historical event, we would probably end up with as many different accounts as there are writers. Since no two individuals see things in the same way, their perception and memories are likely to be shaped by such things as their interests, expectations, and cultural backgrounds.
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